Textile industry falls short of SCAP 2020 waste targets

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has published today (19 October) its final Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) report, detailing the progress made by the clothing and textile industries towards net-zero.

SCAP TextilesThe exit paper is a culmination of eight years of collaborative efforts by sector leaders, coinciding with the most recent progress report from the Textiles 2030 initiative, a scheme intended to guide signatories towards circularity. Participating brands have already committed to practical action designed to halve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.

The findings of the report

The final paper shows that, overall, whilst SCAP struggled to meet some of its waste goals, it did surpass the carbon and water footprint targets that it set out. The report cites a significant increase in the use of sustainable fibres within the sector as the most ‘impactful’ change made by signatories to the scheme, with usage rising from close to zero in 2012 to over 100,000 tonnes in 2020.

In terms of waste goals, the target to reduce the amount of clothing ending up in either landfill or incineration by 15 per cent made headway in 2017 – with a reduction of 4 per cent – though had not yet been met pre-pandemic. It seems unlikely for the target to have been met in 2020 due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the collection, reuse, and recycling of unwanted clothing, though progress made over the past year was not able to be reported in the paper due to a lack of recent waste data – this is to be updated in 2022.

In spite of targets likely not having been met, the report states that improvement actions carried out by SCAP signatories have grown more than tenfold throughout the course of the agreement. Actions taken included switching to more sustainable fibres; low impact dyeing; introducing hire and repair services; collecting clothing for reuse; designing for longer life; and more efficient production.

The clothes and textiles sector still has progress to make if it wishes to meet net-zero targets, the paper states. It stresses that one of the means through which carbon savings can be unlocked is in the creation of a ‘truly circular’ economy for fabrics. In order to do this, Textiles 2030, essentially the successor to SCAP, has incorporated work streams on design for longevity and recyclability; reuse business models; and close loop recycling of textile fibres.

Textiles 2030’s achievements

Launched in April 2021, Textiles 2030 is tasked with bettering the environmental impact of clothing and fabrics within the UK through introducing practical interventions along the entirety of the supply chain. The initiative has seen the collaboration of businesses across the sector, working towards the creation of a circular economy within which textile products can be circulated.

Since its inception, 92 signatories have committed to Textiles 2030, from brands and retailers to reuse and recycling organisations. This means that of all clothing within the UK market, 62 per cent is represented by Textiles 2030 supporters.

Experts across the organisations involved in Textiles 2030 have formed The Metrics Working Group in order to determine the scope, priority features, and improvement actions which will be captured by the Textiles 2030 Footprint Calculator by early 2022. The Metrics Working Group has provided the Department of Food, Environment and Agricultural Affairs (DEFRA) with policy insights in order to inform consultation on broader textiles legislation. It has also specified the evidence and insights required for the transition to a circular economy, including through customer engagement.

Textiles Action Week

In terms of further action, one such example is in Textiles Action Week. Commencing yesterday (18 October) and ending on 22 October, the event calls for action across the industry, with WRAP prompting businesses to demonstrate the steps they have taken to improve their impact on the planet.

Events taking place this week include:

  • The Change in Fashion and Textiles webinar (20 October), which plans on highlighting the ‘power of collaboration and action’, providing insight on the action required to halve the carbon footprint of the textiles industry. There will also be testimonials from signatories outlining the reasoning for their commitment to Textiles 2030
  • Textiles Sorting Facility Tours (across the duration of the week) in London, Mansfield and Greater Manchester
  • A ‘visible mending’ and customisation workshop (21 October) hosted in Leeds by Primark and Habits for Life

Dr David Moon, Director of Collaboration and Change at WRAP, commented: “The learnings and success of the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan have provided the foundations for Textiles 2030. SCAP was the first voluntary agreement of its kind to measure and act within the UK textiles sector and the knowledge we have gained from this agreement has underpinned what needs to happen to make Textiles 2030 even more impactful.

“Sector-wide change is essential if we are to achieve climate targets and a circular economy in materials, so we have been collaborating with businesses, Governments and other stakeholders to develop Textiles 2030. The public, investment managers and policy makers are all demanding practical action, sustainable products and evidence of outcomes.  We need more companies to show their commitment to action through Textiles 2030, continuing and evolving the legacy of SCAP.”

Baroness Young of Hornsey OBE, benefactor of Textiles 2030, said: “There is an urgent need for us to protect people and planet from the damaging and unsustainable way we produce and consume clothing and textiles. Innovative, creative and committed collaboration is the key, and in effect the only way can we succeed in minimising our impact.

“In just six months, Textiles 2030 has united businesses across the UK and worked with them to take the critical steps needed to transform business practices swiftly and permanently and to fulfil climate goals. What WRAP and Textiles 2030 signatories have achieved so far and the plans which influential brands have for the future serve as an inspiration to us all.

“In the run up to the United Nations Climate Conference (COP26), environmental sustainability is rightly at the forefront of industry minds. Every fashion and textile business in the UK has to act now to help us avoid catastrophic climate change. Signing up to Textiles 2030 and acting on that commitment is a big, significant step towards achieving that aim.”

Resources and Waste Minister, Jo Churchill, said: “We all know that urgent action is needed to slash the environmental impact of our clothing if we are to meet our ambitious Net Zero target. Leading fashion brands and manufacturers have made solid progress so far, and the Textiles 2030 initiative must build on this momentum, shifting us towards a more prosperous and sustainable fashion industry.

“There is further to go, which is why, through our world-leading Environment Bill and landmark waste reforms, we will take steps to tackle fast fashion by incentivising recycling and encouraging innovation in new design.”